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When Lansing was named the state Capital in 1847, the area was almost complete wilderness. After becoming the capital city Lansing grew rapidly with the Grand River being the central pillar of that growth. While railroads eventually grew to dominate transportation and commerce, the river continued to be important for power generation and waste disposal. In the two to three decades leading up to the turn of the 20th century, Lansing became a major industrial center with many growing industries lining the river banks. What is now Adado Park, on both sides of the river, once was the economic engine of the region. The factories lining the riverbanks made farm implements, wagons, windmills, stoves, carriages, sugar, and beer. Power for the industries was provided by the North Lansing Dam.
Meads Mill and the Shiawassee Street Bridge can be seen in this 1879 picture on the left. The newly completed Capitol Building rises above the cityscape. To the right of the Capitol Building is Buck’s Opera House.
The Capitol Building can be seen in the picture at right taken about 1900. The covered bridge on the right is the covered wooden Lansing Manufacturers Railway bridge. This was replaced in 1919 by a three-span through-plate girder bridge 12 feet wide, 231 feet long, and rests on concrete piers and abutments. The steel girders, each five feet high, make up the three spans, each 77 feet long. This bridge now is the pedestrian bridge connecting East and West Adado Park. The bridge on the near left is Shiawassee Street and the bridge on the far left is Michigan Avenue.
Lansing Wagon Works on the corner of Grand and Shiawassee (artist’s depiction of about 1899).
Lansing Wheelbarrow Co. (later Lansing Co., incorporated in 1891), at the southwest corner of Cedar and Saginaw, was another important participant in the manufacturing history of the city – both for its product and its management. Its president was a man whose name is still well known to Lansing residents, E.W. Sparrow, and lesser known but equally important were the Secretary and Treasurer and Vice President, the Stebbins brothers, Arthur C. and Courtland Bliss. Notice the company’s facilities bordering two train lines, for ease of shipping and receiving.
Lansing, the capital of the commonwealth of the great State of Michigan, was born on the banks of the beautiful Grand river in the year 1843 in the midst of a comparatively unbroken wilderness. The first settlers, it is quite reasonable to presume, never entertained anything like an adequate conception of the magnificent proportions and importance which our present beautiful city has attained. It undoubtedly never occurred to their ruralistic minds that the howling of the wolves and the growling of the panthers at that time were but the forerunners of their great State’s future law-makers, caged beneath the dome of a million-and-a-half palatial structure called the State House. Lansing, it is true, enjoys many advantages by reason of its being the Capital, which it thoroughly appreciates; but it must be self-evident to everyone familiar with its geographical location and the characteristics of its citizens, as well as its public and private institutions, that it possesses many other advantages superior to any city in the west. It is centrally located, both in respect to population and railroad facilities, in the lower peninsula of Michigan.
It is bounded by one of the most fertile farming districts in the world, which district is cultivated by a most thrifty and intelligent class of farmers.
The shipping facilities and close proximity to the raw material makes Lansing one of the very best manufacturing center in the west. Its railroads parallel every line of the compass, which makes it one of the most important railroad centers in the State and assures most advantageous freight rates.
Its population exceeds 25,000 and is growing substantially in numbers as well as business enterprises.
Lansing has seven iron bridges, spanning the Grand and Cedar rivers, one of which cost $65,000 is the widest street bridge in the world.
All the principal religious denominations are represented, and many of the church edifices are exemplification of architectural beauty.
The State Agricultural College with its beautiful grounds and farm of 676 acres and magnificent buildings valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, together with its facilities for giving a practical education equal to any institution of its nature in the United States, is one of the very important and attractive features of the city. The State Industrial
School for Boys is located in the eastern part of the city on a farm of 250 acres. It contains about five hundred boys. J. E. St. John is the superintendent. The Michigan School for the Blind is located in the northwestern part of the city and has in connection 45 acres of land. About one hundred pupils here acquire a good common school education and have an opportunity to learn some trade or profession. E. P. Church is the superintendent.
Thus it will be readily seen, even by the least observing, that Lansing possesses all the qualifications necessary for the constitution of a typical residence, commercial and manufacturing city.
It has numerous railroads, over which rolls to and fro the unceasing tide of commerce, broad, clean, shaded residence street and thoroughfares, pleasant and shady parks, beautiful scenery, all the qualifications which characterize a city where youth and ambition may pursue unhampered the phantom ship of life or where weary and withered age may find a quiet retreat from the busy fields of life’s contest and be solaced by the sweet recollections which they suggest.
Lansing Iron & Engine Works, operated by Jarvis, Barnes & Co., started around 1880 as the Lansing Iron Works. The company reorganized in 1883 as the Lansing Iron & Engine Works and incorporated in 1885 under the same name.
The Lansing Iron & Engine Works was located in Lansing, Michigan and was known to have manufactured portable steam engines (ca 1880’s) as well as 4-wheel drive steam traction engines and saw mills.
The potential advantages of four-wheel drive didn’t escape the notice of early steam traction engine manufacturers.
Lansing Iron & Engine Works, Lansing, Mich., used a chain to drive a large sprocket turning in a carrier bolted to the bottom of the boiler. The axle keyed into the sprocket, and also used the sprocket as its pivot point. However, with no front differential, one wheel would drag in a turn.
The 12 HP, 1898 Lansing, the only known example, once belonged to Rev. Elmer Ritzman, who kept it on display in a museum he maintained at his home in Enola, Pa.
Lansing started making traction engines about 1883, but in 1898 the company shut its doors. It’s unknown how many engines Lansing built, as no company records have survived.